[in-kyuh-beyt, ing-]
See more synonyms for incubate on
verb (used with object), in·cu·bat·ed, in·cu·bat·ing.
  1. to sit upon (eggs) for the purpose of hatching.
  2. to hatch (eggs), as by sitting upon them or by artificial heat.
  3. to maintain at a favorable temperature and in other conditions promoting development, as cultures of bacteria or prematurely born infants.
  4. to develop or produce as if by hatching; give form to: His brain was incubating schemes for raising money.
verb (used without object), in·cu·bat·ed, in·cu·bat·ing.
  1. to sit upon eggs.
  2. to undergo incubation.
  3. to develop; grow; take form: A plan was slowly incubating in her mind.

Origin of incubate

1635–45; < Latin incubātus past participle of incubāre to lie or recline on, to sit on (eggs), equivalent to in- in-2 + cub(āre) to sit, lie down + -ātus -ate1; cf. incumbent, concubine
Related formsin·cu·ba·tive, adjectiveun·in·cu·bat·ed, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for incubate

breed, nurture, brood, produce

Examples from the Web for incubate

Contemporary Examples of incubate

Historical Examples of incubate

British Dictionary definitions for incubate


  1. (of birds) to supply (eggs) with heat for their development, esp by sitting on them
  2. to cause (eggs, embryos, bacteria, etc) to develop, esp in an incubator or culture medium
  3. (intr) (of eggs, embryos, bacteria, etc) to develop in favourable conditions, esp in an incubator
  4. (intr) (of disease germs) to remain inactive in an animal or human before causing disease
  5. to develop or cause to develop gradually; foment or be fomented
Derived Formsincubation, nounincubational, adjectiveincubative or incubatory, adjective

Word Origin for incubate

C18: from Latin incubāre to lie upon, hatch, from in- ² + cubāre to lie down
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for incubate

1640s, "to brood upon, watch jealously" (which also was a figurative sense of Latin incubare); 1721 as "to sit on eggs to hatch them," from Latin incubatus, past participle of incubare "to lie in or upon" (see incubation). Related: Incubated; incubating.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

incubate in Medicine


[ĭnkyə-bāt′, ĭng-]
  1. To maintain eggs, organisms, or living tissue at optimal environmental conditions for growth and development.
  2. To maintain a chemical or biochemical system under specific conditions in order to promote a particular reaction.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

incubate in Science


  1. The act of warming eggs in order to hatch them, as by a bird sitting upon a clutch of eggs in a nest.
  2. The act of keeping an organism, a cell, or cell culture in conditions favorable for growth and development.
  3. The maintenance of an infant, especially one that is ill or born before the usual gestation period, in an environment of controlled temperature, humidity, and oxygen concentration in order to provide optimal conditions for growth and development.
  4. The development of an infection from the time the pathogen enters the body until signs or symptoms first appear.
Related formsincubate verb
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.